CLEVELAND, Ohio — Good or bad, 2020 did not lack for storylines as far as the Cleveland Indians were concerned.
From Shane Bieber’s emergence as the most dominant pitcher during baseball’s regular season to a dramatic home run by José Ramírez that propelled the club into the postseason, there was plenty to talk about, both on the field and off.
The COVID-19 pandemic shuttered spring training facilities with little more than two weeks before the scheduled opening day back in March and once players were able to return, it was in empty ballparks with piped-in crowd noise and myriad social distancing protocols.
Early in the 60-game regular season, Indians manager Terry Francona was forced to step away from the club due to illness, and Sandy Alomar Jr. stepped in as the acting manager for all but 14 games. Along the way, the club was forced to deal with disciplining two of its starting pitchers who broke COVID-19 protocols while in Chicago, eventually trading Mike Clevinger to San Diego for a haul of prospects and young major leaguers.
Young stars emerged as Triston McKenzie showed why he was once ranked as the organization’s top prospect in his first big league action, and reliever James Karinchak dazzled at times with his filthy breaking pitches.
Cleveland’s starting infield played as a cohesive group with Cesar Hernandez having a Gold Glove season at second base while Ramírez was an MVP finalist for the third time in four years. But the prospect of trading away four-time All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor hung over the club throughout the season, and only seemed to intensify after the disappointing exit after being swept by the Yankees in the Wild Card series.
Throughout it all, 2020 had its ups and downs. A name change is on the way some time after 2021, but this Indians season will certainly go down as one of the most bizarre of all time.
We asked subscribers to Indians SubText to give us their top three moments from 2020 and their predictions for next year. Below is a sample of what they submitted.
Ryan, Bastrop, Texas: Josh Naylor’s 5-for-5, and then getting pulled for Jordan Luplow to tie it up; Bieber’s overall dominance and righting the ship to stop the losing streak; Jose having fun again.
Mark, Norwalk, Ohio: 1. Far and away the Jose walk-off HR to clinch postseason vs. Chicago on Sept. 22. Despite no fans being there it was the one in-game moment that made you feel like you were part of it. It was the single moment that physically moved me off the furniture at home! 2. Bieber’s 2nd start of the season at Minnesota on July 30. 13 Ks/0 BB. All his starts were obviously good, but that was the night where you realized he was the next ace of the future and a Cy Young contender. 3. The final game of the season. Down 6-2 vs. Pirates and rallying to win and earn those Wild Card games at home.
Anonymous from Youngstown: The play of Bieber and Jose and making the playoffs. Short-lived as they were.
Brent, Chagrin Falls: Making the playoffs, Bieber’s Cy Young and J-Ram’s bouncing back.
Gary, Toledo: Top moments include 1. Bieber!; 2. Boys night out in Chicago; 3. Good job by Sandy.
Bob, Louisville, Ky.: Top moments were 1. First game of season under unprecedented COVID-19 conditions; 2. Last game of post-season viewing it as Lindor’s last game as an Indian; 3. Getting to the postseason despite pandemic, despite Francona being out pretty much entire season, and despite woeful team hitting.
PREDICTIONS FOR 2021
Laura , Virginia Beach, Virginia: I think Lindor will still be with the Indians.
Ryan, Bastrop, Texas: Lindor will be traded before the season starts and the Indians will win the trade overall; Reyes and Naylor both find a groove and are solid contributors to the team; Civale makes leaps and bounds and follows in a Kluber-like way.
Mark, Norwalk, Ohio: 1. Lindor is traded in only a 2 for 1, or a 3 for 1 deal to either Toronto or NY Mets as many have suggested. Will not bring back 4+ players. Historically these winter trades have involved a third team recent years (Bauer twice, Encarnacion) but this market says no. 2. Franmil Reyes and Nolan Jones both find regular positions in the field and have breakout years as a result. *Both* players will hit 20+ HR and 65+ RBI in ’21. 3. Emmanuel Clase salvages the Kluber trade and has an above average season to keep back of the bullpen strong once again.
Anonymous from Youngstown: In 2021 I’m just hoping they are competitive. Looking forward to finding out who will play 2nd, short and center.
Brent, Chagrin Falls: For 2021, a losing record, fans stay away in droves, new owners.
Gary, Toledo: Predictions for 2021 are 1. Indians find they won’t get enough for Lindor and decide to keep him to keep the “window” open; 2. Indians add no outfielders and the platooning returnees do surprisingly well; 3. Cal Quantrill falls right in line as the No. 3 starter behind Bieber and Plesac.
Bob, Louisville, Ky.: Predictions for 2021 are 1. Finishing at .500 despite weak offensive stats; 2. Pitching, both starting and relief, continue as team’s strong suit; 3. Poor attendance and pressure to gain new additional investors result in Lebron being looked to as one key option.
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New Indians face masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Cleveland Indians-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection, including a single mask ($14.99) and a 3-pack ($24.99). All MLB proceeds donated to charity.
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